Marx and Engels on Human Nature

Useful simple short article.

https://www.sfr-21.org/human-nature.html

Marx:

“Estranged labour, therefore, turns man’s species-being – both nature and his intellectual species-power – into a being alien to him and a means of his individual existence. It estranges man from his own body, from nature as it exists outside him, from his spiritual essence, his human existence.”

Slavoj Žižek, Quantum and Dialectics

“The idea that knowing changes reality is what quantum physics shares with both psychoanalysis (for which interpretation has effects in the real) and historical materialism”.

Slavoj Žižek – quoted on Redit

This is a great little paragraph!

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From https://medium.com/@paulaustinmurphy2000/slavoj-žižeks-philosophy-of-science-quantum-obscurantists-and-ideology-e6bc3cf38505

A useful read!!

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I wish they had an inkling of Moreno in these discussions — psychodrama fits in more tightly than “psychoanalysis.”

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Interesting the extent to which Bohm was influenced by dialectical materialism:

“In this way Bohm understood it as idealistic. In Bohm’s interpretation, however, the particle possesses at all times a well-defined position and momentum regardless of observation or associating ideas. So, in Bohm’s view, matter came before mind in his theory. Thus he called his interpretation a materialistic one.4 With this materialist interpretation, Bohm wanted to expel mysticism from physics.”

Christian Forstner
Dialectical Materialism and the Construction of a New Quantum Theory: David Joseph Bohm, 1917–1992

 

The Moment in History

I am a psychodramatist and hence a student of the work of J.L. Moreno.  And I hold his philosophy and methods to be revolutionary in the sense of having potential to heal humanity.  There is an area of his philosophy and outlook where he comes short of the potential, it is in the conception of mass action and the macro forces that operate in the world.  He lacks a good grasp of Marxism. And I think Marxism lacks the science of sociometry, the outlook of small groups.

Moreno and Marx have a lot of common ground. Both Marx and Moreno have an experimental, scientific outlook. Action and learning go together. Its integrated.  This is what is meant by dialectical, a term both Moreno and Marx use for describing the process of participation in the world.  Its not one or another or even one and the other, Action and learning combine in the flow of life.

I will comment on the following passage by Moreno to show how it is similar to marxism and how it is progressive and also where it shows a gap in Moreno’s approach:

“All this, of course, could only happen if the warming up process of all human characters and all participating groups coalesce naturally into an experiment . (Rule of “gradual” inclusion of all extraneous criteria .) There are many steps and more barriers which a sensitive crew of coexperimenters might encounter on the way to a scientific utopia . However little or far they advance they never fool themselves and never fool others ; they prefer the “slow” dialectic process of the sociometric experiment in situ to social experiments which are based on inference and logic only or the social revolutions of mass action which do not know when to start and when to end .”

“Who Shall Survive?” P63

First the progressive:

Warm-up is a key concept in psychodrama, the process is complex, yet the term is somewhat self explanatory. I have written with approval of Moreno’s scientific method and the “Rule of “gradual” inclusion of all extraneous criteria.” It makes total sense sense when working with the group process of warming up.  What is central, what is extraneous? How not to dismiss all that emerges? The group warms up together and a focus emerges. See my psychodrama thesis about finding the focal conflict and central concern in a psychodrama group.

In the next few lines “slow” is a word to review.  It is sometimes slow and sometimes fast.  He has it gradual and slow in quotes. I take it he means it is relative, and as he says. part of the “dialectic process” which can be seen as outside of linear time. There are moments of dramatic change in a psychodrama group. The oft quoted idea from Lenin comes to mind:

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

― Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

I can imagine Moreno agreeing that this happens in psychodrama, though he does not address the flow of history in this way.

Moreno is also progressive when he contrasts “sociometric experiment in situ”  and “social experiments which are based on inference and logic only”. Here again is a shared outlook with Marx.  It is a moment where Moreno is clearly not a philosophical idealist, i.e. someone who dreams up a plan and then works out the steps to execute it.  That way of thinking is anathema to both Moreno and Marx. When Moreno says in situ, he means in the world and not on the psychodrama stage. On the stage the enactment is as close to life as possible, but he regularly affirms that life itself is the most important arena.

A gap in his methods are revealed in his concluding negative comment about mass action: “the social revolutions of mass action which do not know when to start and when to end.” These are not according to Moreno the sort of group that “coalesce naturally into an experiment.”

This is where Moreno’s vision, focussed on small groups is at a loss to grapple with major social upheaval. It seems he does not have a problem with “social revolution”, but a particular type of mass action. It is true, there is no knowing what will happen when it comes to masses, social forces, large groups, classes and nations. So Moreno is then at a loss, he has no way of knowing where to stand on mass movements, how to be with them or assess them. He is not able to make use of his theory of the moment or concept of spontaneity and theory of change.

There is no denying that there is a conundrum. A challenge.  A small group can have a life of its own that is bigger than the individual will of the participants. The methods, philosophy and history of psychodrama are about the collective relational processes. Moreno made unique contributions including the philosophy of the moment. But what about the clashing of multiple large social collectives? What about the moment in history? Marxism adresses this area, (but does not have ready answers.)

Note this classic statement from Marx:

“Men and women make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.

But can it be done well?  Marx is not always optimistic, here is the rest of the paragraph:

The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.”

― Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

For those familiar with Moreno will see that Marx is grappling with what Moreno would call cultural conserves.  And Morenian theory has lots to say about cultural conserves. The theory of change, tried and tested in small groups is the Canon of Creativity. To become creative, to have the emergence of the adequate and new, the path is through warm up and spontaneity to creativity. But how does this theory of change apply at a macro level?

This brings us to an eternal discussion in revolutionary political discourse, where the word spontaneity is also used: the relationship between the spontaneity of the people and leadership. To get an idea about the debate, look at these two paragraphs from Wikipedia on Revolutionary Spontaneity

Revolutionary spontaneity, also known as spontaneism, is a revolutionary socialist tendency that believes the social revolution can and should occur spontaneously from below by the working class itself, without the aid or guidance of a vanguard party and that it cannot and should not be brought about by the actions of individuals such as professional revolutionaries or political parties who might attempt to foment such a revolution.

In his work What Is to Be Done? (1902), Vladimir Lenin argued fiercely against revolutionary spontaneity as a dangerous revisionist concept that strips away the disciplined nature of Marxist political thought and leaves it arbitrary and ineffective.[1]

To counterpose the two perspectives as polar opposites in this way is to do them both a disservice, but the question of the relationship between spontaneity and leadership of revolution is clear. This is also a question of the relationship between small groups and large social forces.  It is fruitful to have both the contributions of Moreno and Marx.

Identity politics

Mistaken Identity by Asad Haider review – the best criticism of identity politics

I found this review of the book by Asad Haider satisfying — despite the title of the book, and the title of the review, I don’t think he just criticises identity politics. Haider defends a strand of it and criticises another and makes the distinction quite clear.

Haider traverses a tricky area. OTOH he can be critical of corporate feminism or indigenous capitalism. On the other hand he avoids two traps: One would be to go (or be seen to go) all sexist and racist. The other would be to fall into offensive class dogma, and say that all will be well in these areas of identity after the working class revolution.

Even in the summary in the review what is constructive and what is not, comes through clearly:

This is the original demand of identity politics, and it’s one that Haider embraces: for a revolutionary practice rooted in people’s identities as racialised, sexed, gendered and classed individuals who face interlocking systems of oppression. These systems have to be fought together, by organising people of different identities in what Haider calls “a project of universal emancipation” devoted to dismantling all of the structures that make them unfree, including and especially capitalism itself.

But if anticapitalist revolution is where identity politics began, it has since become something quite different, and is now invoked by certain liberals and leftists to serve distinctly non-revolutionary ends, Haider argues. It involves members of marginalised groups demanding inclusion, recognition, or restitution from above – a seat at the table. These demands are made in response to very real injuries endured by those groups. But their method, he says, ends up strengthening the structures that produced those injuries in the first place.

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2334

I’m intrigued that Asad Haider is a PhD candidate in the History of Consciousness. I listened to him in a podcast and he is indeed knowledgeable in this area. See my blog post.

I look forward to what else he has written.

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Found this:

An Intercept interview with Haider.

Hypocognition

Hypocognition is a censorship tool that mutes what we can feel. A link to an article in Aeon. Worth reading!

It is a strange feeling, stumbling upon an experience that we wish we had the apt words to describe, a precise language to capture. When we don’t, we are in a state of hypocognition, which means we lack the linguistic or cognitive representation of a concept to describe ideas or interpret experiences.

A name for something helps us to see it. The article offers good examples, e.g.

Before I knew what phubbing was, I didn’t have the guts – or the word – to call out my friend for phubbing me (snubbing me for her phone) in the middle of a conversation. And now… I still don’t – not when I myself can barely resist the urge of being figital (excessively checking one’s digital device) and curb my own performative busyness.

The term was introduced to behavioural science by the American anthropologist Robert Levy, who in 1973 documented a peculiar observation: Tahitians expressed no grief when they suffered the loss of a loved one. They fell sick. They sensed strangeness. Yet, they could not articulate grief, because they had no concept of grief in the first place. Tahitians, in their reckoning of love and loss, and their wrestling with death and darkness, suffered not from grief but a hypocognition of grief.

I can’t help but think Levy got something wrong about Tahitians, but that aside,  ‘hypogognition‘ is a term that self reflexively lets us see a lot more. The concept leads me to describe some experiences and to some political reflections.

I recently bought a deck of about 60 cards based on the NVC lists of feelings and needs. Going through the deck really helps identify what’s going on. I’ve used it with clients and used it myself and it is like an eskimo finally getting to learn the 200 words for snow. Using the cards leads to a sharper ability to identify feelings. Its interesting how ‘worried’ might fit, ‘anxious’ does not, so cognitive ability leads to understanding of self and others.

Identifying these unmet needs helps the ability create strategies to meet them. (that is the core of NVC.)

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The darker side

The discovery, the acquisition or the creation of new concepts is enabling. The article goes on though to describe a darker side.

Hypocognition … as a form of social control, a wily tactic to expressly dispel unwanted concepts by never elaborating on them. After all, how can you feel something that doesn’t exist in the first place?

I came across this idea recently with respect to the way capitalist society through its myriad of devices has mede certain words obscure or or muddled. Alientation in the sense of doing meaningless and wasteful work is one example. Superstructure the body of ideas and systems built to support the base of production, is another example. Add to that some concepts like ‘surplus value‘ and it is clear the social control of cognition is alive and well. Look at the confusion about the meaning of the term socialism. In short, the class war is right there in the battle over words.

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Psychotherapy, and of course particularly psychodrama addresses hypocognition — cultural conserves are seen and transformed through spontaneity. Once we have the concept of roles then words, thinking, action, feeling all come together.

 

 

A critique of ideas that make us weak.

This is a problem:

George is right, capitalism must go. (though he does not fully say that – he says neoliberalism must go, implying that some capitalism is ok?) Many people know capitalism is at the root of poverty, racism, climate crisis and war.  It must go. What must be done to make that happen?

Capitalism must go to save the planet. And…?

Monbiot’s message:  We need a new story. This is like saying we need a new theory of evolution. It is an insult to history.  There is a story, one he does not mention here.

The old story is as good as new.  Better.  Scientific socialism proposed by Marx and Engles has been around for about 180 years and it is not a “story” but a comprehensive theory and mode of praxis.

Here are three keys elements of the theory.  Please follow the links to get a sense of the theory.

Why and how revolutions work.
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”  (Marx and Engles)

The forces of production get out of sync with the relations of production till there is a new mode of production.

To really get this, it helps to understand historical materialism and labour theory of value. 

The theory social change does not mean it describes every moment of history.  It does provide a way of understanding the change process.

How capitalism prevents socialism.
Somehow it produces and promotes people like Monbiot!  He sounds anti-capitalist but undermines effective opposition to it. Just as people start to rebel, they get side tracked by ideas that will weaken the rebellion. Just why that happens is explained by the theory of base and superstructure.  Capitalists ideas come to the surface all the time.  Capitalists own the media, the education system.  They make capitalism sound normal and natural.

“Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.”  (Lenin) To keep that theory alive takes a bit of doing.

Action and Knowledge
How do we know what works? What is right? We lean through action – then we iterate – create new hypothesis – test them – learn more.  Science is dialectical.  You can’t just dream up something and then persuade people to make it happen.  Knowledge is dependent on social practice.

“The intellectual virtues underlying Lenin’s philosophy of science—his anti-orthodoxy, his anti-dogmatism and his insistence on debates that meets the standards of rational enquiry, are now in as much need of being reclaimed as the core virtues of politics as they were when he first defended them.” (Joe Pateman)

And learn from history!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Map is not the Territory

Structural Differential — Alfred Korzybski.

Screen Shot 2019-01-13 at 3.35.51 PM

Podcast

#278: Tim O’Reilly – The Trend Spotter The Tim Ferriss Show podcast

Transcript

Tim O’Reilly: Let me go back to George Simon because a lot of what he taught was a kind of mental discipline that was rooted in a model of how consciousness happens. It was framed somewhat in the language of Alfred Korzybski’s general semantics. Korzybski drew this wonderful diagram – it was actually a tool he used to train people – that he called the structural differential.

Korzybski’s fundamental idea was that people are stuck in language, but language is about something. And so, he represented what he called the process of abstraction so that people could ask themselves, “Where am I in that process?” So, the first part of the structural differential was a parabola, and the reason why it was a parabola is because reality is infinite, but we can’t take in all of reality.

And so, hanging from the parabola was a circle, and the circle was our experience, which is our first abstraction from reality. And then, hanging from the circle are a bunch of label-shaped tags – multiple strings of them – and these are the words that we use to describe our experience.

Korzybski’s training was for people to recognize when they were in the words, when they were in the experience, and when they were open to the reality. George mixed that in with this work of Sri Aurobindo, who was an Indian sage, and had come up with a model that integrated a spiritual view of this, and a practice which was just listening and being open to the unknown.

What is the universe up to?

On the first day of training in Imago therapy Maya Kollman characterised a couple relationship as “A microcosm of the universe trying to repair itself.” In different words psychodrama includes the same idea, the therapeutic tele is distributed in the group, it’s not just in the director.

And there is qualitative evidence for this… A group, or a couple, once the connection is established and there is a warm up, will hum its way to more and more enabling solutions. I see it so clearly in psychodrama groups – each drama assists the whole group in a quest that is finally resolved. The terminology of ‘disturbing motive’ and ‘reactive fear’ is used to describe this process. Even this naming implies that it is the ‘disturbing motive’ that arises first and the the ‘reactive fear’ is simply the obstacles of the cultural conserve (CC) that need to get out of the way. CC is a term from the psychodramatic theory Canon of Creativity

An earlier post grapples with the same idea. https://psyberspace.walterlogeman.com/2018/the-survival-dance-that-gets-in-the-way-of-the-encounter/

There is a layer of conserved coping that is somehow “man made”, the reactive fear, which is usually followed by flight or fight i.e. Criticism and blaming or avoidance. There is another layer – the universe trying to heal itself. Lets just call it eros or love. Gt the crap out of the way and the love will come through.

Both psychodrama and Imago have the philosophy that the therapist is the catalyst, simply providing tools, like dialogue, or the 5 instruments so the eros can emerge.

I’m reflecting on the relationship between letting it happen and making it happen.

The inevitable can be helped along.

We are agents in the healing of the universe. i.e. in its progress. Towards eros.

We can make it worse or better. If this is a dead end it will proceed towards the omega point in some other way. The universe does not care, but it won’t stop its evolution, its development, its progress. These words are teleological.

We make history but under conditions of our choosing.

Surfing. We can but catch a wave or miss it.

Anyway, if we assume that a group or a couple is “A microcosm of the universe trying to repair itself.” then we are assistants to that process.

Thats what Marxists are too.

Strange that the right who advocate market forces somehow believe in the benign power of the market. Leave alone. Marxists might trust the market too if it was alive in a society that was free of the distortions of the capitalists. It would tend towards each to his needs. Just like in couple therapy – in my room I have to be a strong dictatorship of the eros forces. We fight the cultural conserves (part of the current cultural forces) of blame – attack and control.

See more search the Tag – theory of change https://psyberspace.walterlogeman.com/tag/theory-of-change/

Osho

We binge watched Wild Wild Country with great interest.

Wild_Wild_Country

I have been intrigued by Bagwhan since the 1980s. I went quite a few workshops in Freemantle, Western Australia… but never drank the cool-aid. No orange or mala. I knew there was controversy in Oregon. Just how awful it was is news to me. What went wrong? Guns for one thing. I hated that turn of events. Sheila?

I watched a short Osho video on YouTube and saw it clearly… Bagwhan is not really the problem as a person either… it is his philosophy!

What a lovely response to the journalists question “what is the purpose of all this?” Anything that has a purpose is mundane. His answer is really an deep reflection on ends and means. The philosopher shines thorough.

But there is an ugly side. He becomes a little scathing of the questioner. He is not “one of my people”. He is an outsider. And there it is, disdain for outsiders. With all the ‘enlightenment’ they could not relate to 50 locals. They took over that town in an arrogant way akin to the way those people had taken it from the native Americans. If they are not “my people” then they are not people at all.

That is the lesson for me in the whole thing… I know I can have that sort of disdain.

Back online

I had to do a big thing.  The whole of this blog was corrupted.  Nothing.  With long guides about how to reinstall and reconnect to the database I did it.

I was scared of loosing this.  I realise how much I love it when it is gone.  Like Christchurch after the earthquake – I was not really home here in Christchurch till now when it is just a mess.

Pleased to see my post about wisdom & consciousness come up.  How against the grain that is!  I wonder why so may of the people I know who are “idealist in the philosophical sense” don’t dispute my outrageous claims against the received wisdom that is the engine that drives psychotherapy and pretty much all of self help and liberal politics.

Never mind…  I’m saying nothing original, just marxism and Moreno stuff that no-one seems to get.  I’m curious…  is this important?   I don’t think liberal tolerance of liberal ideas is a healthy thing.  But then it does not really matter… that is the point, reality will win out no matter what stories we tell.

Bear with my reflections…

The ideology does not matter, but being in touch with what reality is up to…  that does matter.  Who can really figure What is to be done at this time? Wishful thinking wont help much.

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Anyway, pleased the blog is back

Later, Tuesday, 17 October, 2017

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

Marx 

“It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”

Marx

… every culture is characterized by a certain set of roles which it imposes with a varying degree of success upon its membership.

Moreno Who Shall Survive? p. 88

 

Two forms of the cultural conserve are referred to in my writings: the technological conserve, as books, motion pictures, robots, and the “human” conserve, the conserve which uses the human organism for its vehicle.

Psychodrama v. 1 p. 123

 

Pace Layer Thinking : Theory of Change

Pace Layers Thinking: Paul Saffo and Stewart Brand @ The Interval — January 27, 02015

Wonderful podcast. Great exposition of an idea that came through looking at houses and then could be generalised.

The thinking applies to design as well as social change.

The image gives the idea:

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I think of other theories of change:

canon

Needs more explaining but has broad application W = warm-up

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And then there is Dialectics. Not to be dismissed.

It is, therefore, from the history of nature and human society that the laws of dialectics are abstracted. For they are nothing but the most general laws of these two aspects of historical development, as well as of thought itself. And indeed they can be reduced in the main to three:

The law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa
The law of the interpenetration of opposites;
The law of the negation of the negation.

Engels’ Dialectics of Nature

Saving Humanity

In July I found this Kim Hill Interview enlightening. Made me see how we have claimed half the earth and now need that other half to sustain us. We must not touch it!

Johan Rockström – planetary boundaries

“Professor Johan Rockström led the team of scientists who worked out the planetary boundaries framework – nine environmental lines we cannot safely cross if human life is to be sustainable on Earth.”

He won the Hillary Award, and is from the Stockholm Resilience Centre

That must be quite a place! It seems another speaker on Kim Hill recently is also connected with the place:

Will Steffen – the beginner’s guide to the Anthropocene

“He says scientists were “staggered” to discover this acceleration was not related to population growth, but to consumption by the world’s wealthiest countries.”

What a great interview. Cuba avoids its carbon production by investing in health and education!

Linking here as I want to listen again.

Wisdom is not Consciousness

Skills, knowledge, spontaneity, intelligence, creativity and wisdom are not consciousness.

 

Easily and often confused. Consciousness raising, so effective in the 70s brought with it the idea that learning and education developed consciousness.  Maybe the miss-use of the word began with Marx?  Class consciousness, does he even use that word?  If he did he did not mean that it could be developed by reading books or classes alone.  Learning comes through experience. Why is using the word consciousness now in the 2010’s a problem?

Hmmm, bear with me…  I’m exploring something.

People do not have higher or lower levels of consciousness. People have skills and abilities including the ability to warm up to spontaneity and creativity. People learn things in practice.  Experience and relationships build ethical wisdom. Discrimination can be taught. Spontaneity can be trained.

To learn, people need relationships, access to teachers and books and crazy people ( typo) I meant craft people.  Being around people who can sing, converse, act, make things, helps people learn. Generous people who share what they know are real teachers.

Action, involvement, engagement, immersion and courage to act and to make mistakes is how people enrich themselves and others. Out of action we get knowledge and ideas. Action first reflection second. Collaboration and interaction before contemplation.  All of this makes us wiser.

Wisdom is not consciousness, it is attained through practice and living. Consciousness is a mysterious quality of knowing we are alive and exist. We just know it, but it is a mystery.

Becoming more able, relational, effective and wise is less mysterious, it takes access to good teachers.  Courage to act. Willingness to seek advice. Ask questions. Discrimination. Love

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This is a simple ideal I’m trying to express. Dewey, Marx, Moreno all promoted action learning. Experiential learning.   Now more than ever the dominant culture works to keep us passive, ignorant, isolated.  Consciousness, higher, lower, altered, psychological, even radical, by any name is individual, private, personal.

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One of the reasons I’m exploring this line of thinking is that there are plenty of movements that promote the idea that if 10% (or whatever) of people reached some sort of higher state of consciousness then the world would be fixed.

It is more dialectical than that.

We are in process and as the world changes, we change.  Action by action.  Not only thought by thought.